Healthy Coastal Ecosystems (HCE)

Healthy coastal ecosystems, sustained by their surrounding watersheds, are the foundation of life along the Gulf Coast. Keeping coastal ecosystems healthy is a challenge because of the diversity of stressors each system faces. This is further complicated because ecosystems do not adhere to traditional political boundaries. Responsible management of these systems requires new kinds of thinking and actions, often termed ecosystem-based management. Ecosystem-based approaches require unprecedented levels of coordination among federal, state and local jurisdictions and the active engagement of the people who live, work and play along our coast. They also require understanding of the characteristics of species, landscapes and their interactions within each ecosystem.

In general, increasingly rapid development of the built environment, greater demands on fisheries resources, climate change and other human activities are leading to water quality degradation, increased demands on water supplies, changes to fisheries stocks, wetlands loss, proliferation of invasive species and a multitude of other environmental impacts. It is essential for decision-makers to understand the interconnectedness and interactions of these systems in order to maintain vital habitats and inform restoration efforts within ecosystems and watersheds.